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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #81
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Mid-East unrest: Is al-Qaeda still relevant?

    A BBC commentary by Gordon Corera, which opens with:
    As uprisings challenge the old order in the Middle East and North Africa, one organisation which for many years claimed it was at the vanguard of toppling authoritarian regimes has so far played almost no part. So is al-Qaeda still relevant? Do the uprisings represent a threat or an opportunity to its role?
    Citing Nigel Inkster, a former deputy head of Britain's intelligence service, now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies:
    Ayman Al-Zawahiri (al-Qaeda's number two) has been trying to overthrow Egyptian regimes for the last 30 years by violence, and a group of middle-class activists armed with cell phones managed to achieve it in under one month...This is hardly a resounding endorsement for the jihadist business model.
    Gordon concludes:
    ...if al-Qaeda currently appears on the backfoot it may still be able to find new ideological and physical spaces in which to renew itself and continue its struggle.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13003693
    davidbfpo

  2. #82
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Arab Spring is the moment that the west has been waiting for, but most do not recognize that yet.

    The tremendous potential energy of these many populaces in varying stages of suppressed insurgency is what AQ has been leveraging for years with they networked UW campaign. Now that many of these are starting to break from from that suppressed state the time is ripe to make aggressive moves to Out-compete AQ for influence with these movements and to provide the much broader populaces behind such movements a far better advocate to help them negotiate new or better governance with their leaders.

    They know AQ offers a bad choice, but when a bad choice is your only choice for confronting a worse situation, what do you do?

    The other realization the West needs to come to is that while we cannot "contain" AQ in the FATA, neither should we try to defeat them there either. Better to know where their base of ops is than to send them completely into the shadows. Ideology cannot be contained, and these guys do not need some big patch of real estate to run effective operations.

    The final move for greater success is to narrow the aperture tremendously in regard to what we consider to be "AQ." We have allowed a legal process and threat-seeking intel mentality lump all manner of movements under broad categories of "terrorist" or "AQ" that may facilitate capture kill operations, but tremendously hinders other forms of engagement to bring these organizations in from the cold and convert to part of the legal solution. Sure, some deserve the title and the relentless hunting, but most do not and it is a problem.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Why the "West" ?

    I'm not disagreeing with your analysis of AQ and its waging unconventional warfare against the US; nor your BL that "Sure, some deserve the title and the relentless hunting, but most do not and it is a problem."

    That said, what does the "West" have to offer the Arab World, or for that matter, the Muslim World ? Those Worlds have already picked at "Western Technology" (they like it and want more of it; but not its ideology as perceived by them). They also have picked at some forms (repeat, forms) of governance.

    If you'd asked Maududi, he (IMO) would have said: "Yes, I believe in "justice", "democracy" and "self-determination".

    Tell you what, I'll play Maududi and you convert me.

    Regards

    Mike

  4. #84
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Mike,

    It is not what we have to offer so much as what it is we have persistently denied through our presence and influence over the governments of the region.

    What we have to offer now is as simple as "De Oppresso Liber." These are populaces who have had little option other than to turn to organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and AQ for support and leadership in challenging outside influences and governments at home that have come to act with a growing impunity to the concerns of the common people.

    Currently AQ is the UW force in the region, AQ is the De Oppresso Liber force in the region. When we send US forces to help these governments build "security force capacity" far too often that is capacity to suppress their own populace rather than capacity to protect their populace against external threats or terrorism from non-state actors that we lump as "VEOs."

    So what we offer is simple:

    1. Stop being an obstacle to good governance (no more enabling of poor governance or capacity building that we can reasonably assume will be used far more to suppress than protect)

    2. Start competing AQ IAW our own professed principles as a nation. Not to overly intervene or demand that other act, think, govern or pray as we do, but rather to help establish clear limits for internal disputes to be resolved within; and to focus on repairing the dysfunctional nature of the relationships we have with so many of these governments (and with so many of the non-state actors as well).

    For the US we slid with increasing speed down the slippery slope of involvement in this region following WWII. Much of Cold War Containment was waged here. Little of Cold War Containment was rolled back here as it was elsewhere. The local autocrats liked the lives they had developed and the protection to maintain them. We liked the certainty of these relationships as well, with the access to resources and key sea lanes that are critical to our economy. We just need to find a new, less abusive of the people of the region, approach.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Call me Abul

    Robert, if I may address you so,

    First, a general question that pervades all: why should I or any other resident of the Islamic World accept principles of governance from the United States ? What do you have to offer that cannot be found within the four walls of the Islamic House ?

    Second, yes - "Stop being an obstacle to good governance". And, withdraw your support from governments in the Islamic World - their fates have been ordained. As you know, I wrote of good governance many years ago.

    Third, I may not understand this - "Start competing AQ IAW our own professed principles as a nation." However, this seems inconsistent with your other statements. Are you speaking only of diplomatic discussions; or are you speaking of interventions to change our professed principles (albeit, "kinder and more gentle" as one of your presidents said) ?

    Fourth - what does ""De Oppresso Liber" translate to (to you) in the modern-day realities of the Islamic World ?

    Fifth - if the US "We just need to find a new, less abusive of the people of the region, approach", why not just depart and allow the People of the Islamic World to seek out what we want and do not want from the US ?

    Sincerely,

    Abul
    (last address, Buffalo, NY, 1979)

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    I tend to agree with Bob's last post. There are many who rather embrace policies that protect the status quo to protect the interest of big busness and others, but this appears to an ideal time to devise policy that is aligned with our values. Regardless of whoever gets in power, they will continue to sell oil, so we can set that irrational fear aside for the time being.

    Why we do embrace political change in our nation through the demoratic process, yet fear it when we see it happening external to our borders? Since there is no means in the Arab Nation-States for the nation to legally change its State their process is illegal, messy, and unpredictable, but not necessarily less democratic than ours.

    For the most part I recommend only providing moral support to those trying to change their illegimate governments via mostly peaceful protests. However, once again we learn that peaceful protests don't work when the State decides to suppress with martial force. At that point great nations like the U.S., and organizations like NATO and the UN have to make hard decisions on what policy to pursue. Getting militarily involved in gray situations where the actors are largely unknown is risky, but failing to help the nation that is struggling for freedom is potentially immoral if we truly have a foreign policy that hinges on values blended with interests.

    We don't know what tomorrow will bring. Some of these movements may succeed, while others fail, and even the successful revolutions may in the end bring little change. One thing we can predict though is these nations will remember how the U.S. responded, and if our response was aligned with our stated values.

    This may be the new era for unconventional warfare as the proliferation of ideas through various forms of media prompt more nations to rise up and demand change. This won't be the UW of our past that was largely focused on guerrilla warfare, that doctrine and its associated TTPs will have to evolve into something that may be more appropriately called political warfare in response to new challenges, but it is a policy option we should be "prepared" to offer our leaders.

  7. #87
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    I have some serious doubts about some of the propositions being advanced here.

    First, the extent to which nationalist insurgents turn to AQ for support is debatable, and largely unsupported. What support has AQ actually provided to these groups? In many cases AQ is the one receiving recruits and financial support from nations where we assume nationalist insurgency. This relationship is a lot more complex than "AQ rides to the rescue as champion of the populace". While AQ has very successfully exploited regional resentment to western intervention, its efforts to muster revolution against local regimes have fallen pretty flat. There's little to suggest that anyone, anywhere has adopted AQ as their champion against their own government.

    Similarly, resentment to despotic governance is not the only or the most effective narrative exploited by AQ. There's a deep-seated generic resentment to the west throughout the region, and not just because the west is perceived as supporting local despots. We should not assume that if Saudi Arabia or Egypt ceases to be governed by despots AQ will lose support in these countries. It's very likely that even if these countries were democracies AQ would still find them ready suppliers of funds and recruits, as long as western powers are engaged in the region.

    We should not overestimate our role as "enablers" or "supporters" of despotic governments. Certainly we have to deal with the perception, but if we assume that the perception is the reality we will assume influence that we do not actually have. Saudi Arabia or Kuwait will not become a constitutional monarchy because we press them to. More likely they will tell us to bug off and mind our own business, and there's not much we can do about it if they do. At the moment we need them more than they need us, and they know it.

    We cannot assume that pressure on these governments will win us points with the people. Often it won't. Even people who loathe their governments often react very badly to US criticism of those same governments: it's not seen as standing up for the populace, it's seen as intrusive meddling and as disrespect for the nation and the culture. Our motives will always be suspect, no matter what we say. We may intervene chanting "de opreso liber", but that doesn't mean the populace won't be hearing "we want the oil".

    I've no objection at all to reducing or eliminating support for and enabling of despotic regimes... though we should not assume that will change much. When we start talking about actively trying to change those regimes, we step into very muddy waters with abundant potential for misinterpretation and unintended consequence. It's tempting to think that the ill effects of past bad meddling can be corrected by compensatory good meddling. We should remember that the meddling that now seems bad seemed quite good at the time, and we're no more omniscient now then we were then. The answer to bad meddling isn't good meddling, it's less meddling.

    Sallying forth to liberate the Middle East is likely to leave us in an even bigger mess. That doesn't mean we have to stick with the status quo, but it means that we have to proceed with a great deal of subtlety and restraint - not traditionally our strong points - when it comes to challenging that status quo.

  8. #88
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Moderator's Note

    Please note some posts here have been moved to the 'Osama bin Laden dead (for information & debate)' thread just created:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=13211

    Can comments on OBL's death and implications be placed on that thread please.
    davidbfpo

  9. #89
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Mike fair questions on key points.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    Robert, if I may address you so,

    First, a general question that pervades all: why should I or any other resident of the Islamic World accept principles of governance from the United States ? What do you have to offer that cannot be found within the four walls of the Islamic House ?

    Second, yes - "Stop being an obstacle to good governance". And, withdraw your support from governments in the Islamic World - their fates have been ordained. As you know, I wrote of good governance many years ago.

    Third, I may not understand this - "Start competing AQ IAW our own professed principles as a nation." However, this seems inconsistent with your other statements. Are you speaking only of diplomatic discussions; or are you speaking of interventions to change our professed principles (albeit, "kinder and more gentle" as one of your presidents said) ?

    Fourth - what does ""De Oppresso Liber" translate to (to you) in the modern-day realities of the Islamic World ?

    Fifth - if the US "We just need to find a new, less abusive of the people of the region, approach", why not just depart and allow the People of the Islamic World to seek out what we want and do not want from the US ?

    Sincerely,

    Abul
    (last address, Buffalo, NY, 1979)
    Point One: (And Dayuhan always twists this one and throws it back at me, so I have apparently never been clear) Our principle is to allow people to live and govern by their principles. When we enable a single strongman to govern such populaces with impunity WE do not live by our principles, and men so corrupted with wealth and power soon do not govern by the principles, ways and means acceptable to the populaces they are supposed to serve.

    When I read principles such as "all men are created equal" I realize that the actual value assessed is situational and varies wildly over time and by culture. Even with in the four corners of the US values change. Where we go astray is when we demand anyone, anywhere adhere to our current assessed value.

    I have always been adamant that we need to stand for Self-Determination (another principle that we loudly profess, but then tend to subjugate to newer values, such as the specific form of governance found in "Democracy." The fact is that Self-Determination is the ultimate form of democracy, regardless of what form of government adopted, as it implies that these people are being governed as they desire to be governed.

    On your second point, I do not ever say we need to withdraw our support, but we do need to stop granting unconditional support to individual leaders and regimes while ignoring how they are not treating their populace within the norms of their own culture. We need to become more attuned to how the people feel about their government and not get into positions were we are reasonably perceived as the obstacle to self-determination and the enabler of impunity.

    On my third point, when I say "compete" with AQ, that is a competition for influence with, and the trust of, the people of every nation. Most importantly for this mission are those that are in high levels of suppressed insurgency that AQ is targeting so aggressively to leverage that energy for their own ends. Those people deserve a new champion that is not so committed to extreme versions of their own religion, or extreme tactics for influencing governments.

    As I type this the talking heads on "Morning Joe" are already saying "Great on Bin Laden, but the real danger is not AQ base in Pak, but rather is AQ on the AP." That is so WRONG. AQ conducts UW, and yes, they have agents working on the AP with members of the many oppressed populaces that exist on that beating heart at the core of the energy that AQ has leveraged from the very beginning. If we shift to massive CT against these insurgents and AQ operators, coupled with massive security force capacity building to suppress such internal threats, we will have totally and completely blown this opportunity. Now is the time to completely change the tone and focus of GWOT to focus on root causes. Let the SOF community and the CIA worry about finding and disrupting the UW hubs of AQ as a silent, relentless supporting effort. The main effort must be the relationship between the populaces as a whole and their own governments.

    Fourth, De Oppresso Liber is to liberate the oppressed. When one is not free or when one is oppressed is an assessment of the individual in question, and of a populace as a collective norm. Many of the most oppressive regimes in the world still exist in the Middle East, and many of those are counted as our allies, and many of those are the primary source of recruits to support AQ operations around the globe. When we merely conduct CT against those who dare to stand up; when we build the capacity of those governments to suppress more effectively (great article on Al Jazerra on this point http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth...644559572.html ) we miss the main point. This is politics, this is governance. Yes, it is good go help protect populaces from the insurgent, from the terrorist. But first, me must ask, have we protected them from their own governments as well??

    5th. At the end of the day we are still a great and mighty country. A country with interests. Many of those interests have critical nodes in the Middle East. We must engage to promote those interests. What we must learn is that old techniques that were cavalier to the issues of the populaces affected by such engagement are rendered invalid, dangerous and obsolete by the modern information age. Great Britain learned this lesson to a certain degree when they made the decision that the cost of a colonial empire exceeded the benefit. Today, the cost of the accidental, functional "empire without colonies" built largely through the control measures born of 60 years of Containment also exceeds the benefit. We need to find a new, more efficient model for managing such interests.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  10. #90
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Default OBL's death & Terrorism's next move

    Place your bets, folks.

    The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files revealed.
    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/824...d-unleash-hell

    *
    May 2, 2011

    U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities today stepped up patrols near mosques and recalled an elite U.S. marine unit that handles chemical and biological weapons attacks in preparation for the possibility of terrorist reprisals, following President Obama's announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed.
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/death-osama...ry?id=13505844

    *
    Osama bin Laden’s death, which weakens al-Qaeda by eliminating the leader who recruited members with grainy video messages, won’t end the terror threat as followers morph into smaller groups inspired by him.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-0...-in-death.html
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  11. #91
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default OBL's death & Terrorism's next move

    A new thread resurrected at original author's request that the issues are separate from the general commentary on OBL's demise.
    davidbfpo

  12. #92
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Default

    I think it reasonable for AQ as it exists in Pakistan and their allies to conclude that the Pak Army/ISI sold OBL to the Americans. If so they might be inclined to focus the bulk of their malign intentions on Pakistan.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  13. #93
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What's next?

    Currently we are awash with analysis, so caveat aside here is one written by a Canadian resident in the UK:http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/...hats-next.html

    It ends with;
    Terrorism will not end with the death of bin Laden. There will undoubtedly be retaliatory attacks in his name. However, one of the legacies of 9-11 is that the security regime it unleashed makes future attacks on that scale nearly impossible.

    Bin Laden will remain an inspirational figure for his efforts, first against the Soviet Union and then against the US, and those motivated by him now remain the greatest threat.

    But bin Laden failed to offer any positive political agenda for the future, which is why Al Qa'eada is so absent from the current events in the Middle East.
    davidbfpo

  14. #94
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    But bin Laden failed to offer any positive political agenda for the future, which is why Al Qa'eada is so absent from the current events in the Middle East.
    I wonder about that. We seem to have assumed from the beginning that AQ was a completely independent entity. Is it possible that they have actually been an instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood?
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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Five men are being held under the Terrorism Act after being arrested close to the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, according to police.

    The men, who are all from London and aged in their 20s, were arrested on Monday shortly after 1630 BST.

    The arrests were made after Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers conducted a stop check on a vehicle close to the Sellafield site, in Cumbria.

    The men were held in Carlisle overnight and are being moved to Manchester.

    The BBC's Fiona Trott said the men were thought to have been filming and were all Bangladeshi.

    The BBC understands the arrests were not the result of a long running investigation.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13268834
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  16. #96
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Pre-emptive 'spoiling attack' by the Germans?

    Security officials in Germany arrested three suspects who may be linked to al-Qaida on Friday. The men could be the first group connected to the international terrorist group to be uncovered in the country since Mohammed Atta's Hamburg-based 9/11 terror cell. One of the men is believed to have had regular contact with al-Qaida.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...759852,00.html

    Meanwhile, the report in Die Welt claimed that the three Moroccan men, who have German passports, are part of a larger group of terror suspects. Because further arrests and raids could take place, the BKA and German Federal Prosecutor's Office were reserved, the paper reported security officials as saying. The newspaper reported that when the men appear, as expected, before investigative judges at the Federal Court of Justice on Saturday, they will be accused of membership in a foreign terrorist organization.
    Last edited by AdamG; 05-03-2011 at 02:01 PM.
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  17. #97
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Pre-emptive?

    I think not, just a realistic decision that arrests had to be made, even if others not under control. See:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13248107

    Posted two days ago on another thread.
    davidbfpo

  18. #98
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    I wonder about that. We seem to have assumed from the beginning that AQ was a completely independent entity. Is it possible that they have actually been an instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood?
    There is much evidence against this thesis and very little towards it - I would ask if you have any for this argument.

    Also I think you overestimate the unity of the MB itself. Are you talking about the Egyptian MB, the Jordanian MB, the Syrian, Hamas?

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    Default Supporting tequila's points,

    I'd suggest a look at (from pp.14-15 pdf):

    Another vulnerability of Zawahiri is his attacks and abject hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, that found its ultimate expression in a 1994 book “Bitter Harvest.” Zawahiri attacks the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizballah for working with the government and participating in electoral politics. This only serves to further isolate al-Qaida and Zawahiri from the wider Islamist movement.
    Ayman al-Zawahiri, A Mythic Figure or Fringe Leader within the Islamist Political Movement: Highlighting the 2006 Writings of Egyptian Journalist Gamal Abdal-Rahim (by LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, MSC, USN 2006) (15 pages pdf).

    This is a book review, not a scholarly thesis; but it points up the links and disputes that now-target #1 had with the various factions and affiliated groups of the Egyptian MB.

    While collateral to Zawahiri's relationship to EGB, I think this comment by LCDR Aboul-Enein (pp.13-14 pdf) is worth some present thought (emphasis added):

    Another disagreement I have with the book is the insistence that the term al-Qaida was derived from the string of five Afghan bases (Farouk, Badr, Jalalabad, al-Siddiq and Jihad), it is most likely the name was derived from Azzam’s many speeches and writings calling for the establishment of al-Qaida al-Sulba (firm foundation). The language of Islamist militants is important, as base and foundation are two different entities, with a foundation connoting flexibility that ranges from base to a transnational world of global logistical support.
    The wider "base-foundation" concept is somewhat similar to our (US) concept of a special operations base, which can have more than one geographic location so long as the functional components are networked.

    I'd hope that the above is useful for educational, not argumentative, purposes.

    Regards

    Mike

  20. #100
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    There is much evidence against this thesis and very little towards it - I would ask if you have any for this argument.

    Also I think you overestimate the unity of the MB itself. Are you talking about the Egyptian MB, the Jordanian MB, the Syrian, Hamas?
    I wasn't advancing a theory, I was speculating on a possibility. It seems reasonable that MB, having been largely driven underground throughout the Moslem world, would spin off AQ as a pressure group, thereby obtaining the twin benefit of destabilizing the authoritarian regimes and being able to cast themselves as "moderate."

    Along with that speculation, I suppose I should raise the question just how much of the perception of the unity of MB (or lack thereof) is due to actual knowledge, and how much is due to any coordination having been driven underground as a result of the suppression of MB by the various authoritarian regimes in the region. (In fact, I can't think of any country where they were allowed to operate completely in the open without fear of suppression - including Egypt.)

    Again, just a speculative question for consideration. YMMV.
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